Decorating eggs for Easter -- Ukrainian style
(New York - WABC, April 6, 2007) (WABC) -- It is an ancient tradition that is especially prominent this time of the year, called Pysanky (PEE-san-keer), the Ukrainian art of egg decoration.
It is an art for those with patience and a steady hand, and it is steeped in the rich tradition of the Ukrainian culture.
It is a painstaking, deliberate art, one Sofika Zielyk learned from her mother at the age of six.
The designs are formed by trailing hot melted wax across the egg, which is then dipped in different dyes. The process is repeated over and over until the wax is melted off to reveal the design. Zielyk says no two eggs are ever alike, which she says is part of the charm.
"It's wonderful," Sielyk said. "It's always a surprise, even though you want to repeat a pattern, you never do. Each egg is unique in its own way."
But the patterns are not random. Indeed, each region of the Ukraine has its own style. It's an art that has not only mangaged to survive, but has flourished, even after it was outlawed by the Communists. Zielyk says that fact is very symbolic.
"It's a very resilient art and we are a very resilient people," she said. "People still managed to somehow create these things."
Nearby, the Surmock Ukranian Store does a brisk business selling supplies for those decorating eggs at home. Owner Markkian Surmach says it's a welcome tradition that draws the whole family together.
"It's the only time of the year when you get a family to gather around a table for six hours and communicate with each other," one customer said.
You can get everything from the eggs to the stylus used for drawing designs at the store, and you can also get a little advice if you are trying the intricate art for the first time.
"It takes patience," Surmach said. "Don't be hard on yourself if it doesn't come out perfect. It gets better the more you do it."
Indeed, though the practice is very popular at Easter, it is practiced year round by many. And if you'd like to see more of some of the best work of both Ukranian and American artists, the display at the Ukranian Museum will be there through July.
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